I read all the things! Again!: MA Winter Term Recap

youdidit

The card is right – I did do it. Shortly after submitting the last paper of my winter term, and therefore completing all assignments for the coursework portion of my MA, my partner surprised me with this card (which preceded an excessively extravagant gift) and made me cry, which was nice. That’s how you know you’ve got a good one – when they keep secrets and make you cry for good things.

Other things that are amazing: doing an MA in a discipline you’re passionate about. Term 2 was amazing, just as this entire experience has been. I read 6,970 pages, made up by twenty-one books, two plays, two books of poetry, and a stack of theory & criticism and wrote submitted 32,552 words (about 108 pages by my calculation). Those numbers seem low to me, though. While this term seemed (to me) to have a heavier workload than the fall term, the numbers are, in actuality, near identical (6,923 pages and 30,584 in the fall). Weird.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: here is what I read in the Winter term:

Here is a list-version, in the approximate order they were read. Favourites indicated by an asterisk(*):

  1. Oedipus the King, Sophocles
  2. The Father and Daughter, Amelia Opie
  3. Canadian Crusoes, Catharine Parr Traill
  4. i is a long memoried woman, Grace Nichols*
  5. Anne of Green Gables, LMM
  6. The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke
  7. Unity (1918), Kevin Kerr
  8. Emma, Jane Austen
  9. Hold Fast, Kevin Major
  10. Autobiography of My Mother, Jamaica Kincaid*
  11. Heave, Christy Ann Conlin
  12. The Pagoda, Patricia Powell
  13. Kiss of the Fur Queen, Tomson Highway*
  14. A Small Gathering of Bones, Patricia Powell
  15. Hiroshima, John Hersey
  16. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë*
  17. Return to Arcadia, H. Nigel Thomas*
  18. Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro
  19. Cereus Blooms at Night, Shani Mootoo
  20. The Children of Men, P.D. James
  21. land without chocolate, Faizal Deen
  22. Olive, Dinah Mulock Craik
  23. What We All Long For, Dionne Brand
  24. Tongues on Fire, Rosamund Elwin
  25. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell

Fun observations about the list above: (1) Anne is a (way) better author than Charlotte. Sorry, Charlotte, you can’t win ’em all. I haven’t read any of Emily’s stuff yet, though, so she’s still in the running to be Literature’s Top Brontë; (2) Elizabeth Gaskell was both the first and the last author I read for my MA – happy coincidence since I had never heard of Gaskell before and it would appear that she is a big deal; (3) The Tempest is the most alluded-to text in literature and therefore should be prerequisite reading for any English or Lit program; (4) The Taming of the Shrew is one of the most adapted plays of all time – I’m pretty sure both Emma and Tenant are adaptations/retellings.

I also read a heap of poetry as part of the assigned reading for the first-year course I TA’d:

  • “On an Occasion of National Mourning,” Howard Nemerov
  • “History Lesson,” Jeannette Armstrong
  • “The Convergence of the Twain,” Thomas Hardy
  • “The Iceberg,” Charles G.D. Roberts
  • “The Lost Worker,” Billeh Nickerson
  • “Erosion,” E.J. Pratt
  • “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’,” Thomas Hardy
  • “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Wilfrid Owen
  • “Munition Wages,” Madeline Ida Bedford
  • “The Second Coming,” W.B. Yeats*
  • “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot
  • “Höfn,” Seamus Heaney
  • “Darkness,” Lord Byron

And a couple of short stories:

  • “Jesus out to sea: a Louisiana lament,” James Lee Burke
  •  “Diary of an Interesting Year,” Helen Simpson

So, that’s it, I’m done now. Well, the coursework portion, anyway. I begin my professional placement next week, which gives me the opportunity to work for a literary magazine publication for six weeks as part of my program. Amongst other things (showering, dressing like a real person every day), this means that for the first time in nearly ten years, I will have regular work hours. Wish me luck!

 

 

Dear March Madness: I win!

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March Madness,
YOU HAVE BEEN DEFEATED!

I had a collection of images selected for this post, but I edited it down because I feel that the one below captures the true essence of how I feel right now: proud and sweaty.

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March Madness is OVER as of tomorrow when I hand in the last assignment I have due this month! Seminars? Check. Proposals? Done. Papers? Written. Books? Read ’em all! Micro-Teaching Session? Nailed it. Mini-Lecture? Delivered. Guest Lecture? Slayed. Essay Marking? Well…I’m still working on that one…but it’s started! The rest of my marking is done so I’m calling it a win!

Only two more final papers to write and I will be finished all of my coursework for my English MA. Bananas.

March Madness is real, it just has nothing to do with football.

UPDATE: My husband informs me that March Madness has nothing to do with football, ever. Apparently, it’s a basketball thing. So, shows what I know. Sports, Go Sports!

It’s been a busy month since I last posted…11 1/2 books busy, and I’m behind in my reading. Add to that two weeks of almost zero progress because I was sick, which is just coming to an end now (thank god) and you can see why I’ve been absent (I hope, please don’t leave me, I love you all)

Here’s what I’ve read since we last spoke a month ago:

Sadly, none of the above are on The List. Happily, many of them were awesome. Highlights in this batch included Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid, who is a treasure, and Olive by Dinah Craik, which I had never heard of before but which was surprisingly easy and quick to read for a 19c novel. A little too pious for my personal predilections, but if you read past the “God will save you” and “The only thing standing in the way of our love and happiness is your lack of faith – Convert! Repent! Then all will right with the world” narrative, then I think you’ll enjoy it.

So that was a pretty busy kick, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. If anything, it’s ramping up.

March Madness is going to be a real thing in my house this year, but for grad student reasons, not football reasons. Because I don’t watch football. I’m talking about book things.

March Madness = two seminars, two proposals, three papers, five books, one micro-teaching session, one mini-lecture, one guest lecture, and essay marking.

It’s okay, I’m not scared. Let’s do this, Lemon.

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source: https://naiomiblogs.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/resolutions.gif?w=676

 

 

Emma: I bite my thumb at you

threepanelbookreview:
“EMMA by Jane Austen.
”

Another intersection between List and MA, can it be? YES IT CAN! I’ve recently finished reading Emma for one of my classes this term. This is my second foray into Austen, and, if I’m being honest, Northanger Abbey was better.

Perhaps that’s only because it was shorter, though…there are a lot of parallels between the two novels — NA could almost be considered Emma junior. In both novels, a young woman is woefully unable to correctly read those around her, and hilarity ensues. Everyone gets married, the end.

In Emma, however, the main title character is awful. I spent a good deal of the first half of the book yelling obscenities at her, and throwing the book against the wall. Okay, I didn’t literally throw the book against the wall (what kind of a monster do you think I am?), but there was fair amount of eye-rolling happening on my part. As the kids say, I was throwing some serious shade.

Emma’s saving grace in the novel is that Austen saw fit to write in a character we would hate more than her heroine – Mr. Frank Freakin’ Churchill. What a useless piece of human flesh he is. Current theory: Frank’s function in the plot is to highlight the ridiculous impotence and lack of agency women have in their lives – by feminizing Frank and placing him in the predicament of many middle-class women of the period, Austen highlights the ridiculousness of the position. She is saying: “See – if this is a man, suddenly it’s not okay, but this is what you are doing to your daughters. Check your double-standards, people!”

Maybe – that’s one theory. The other theory is that she wanted to a have a foil for Mr. Knightley. This theory is just as credible.

Favourite Moment: That time when she was directly responsible for her BFF’s heartbreak TWICE and then when her friend FINALLY moves on, Emma goes “hmmm actually…Imma marry him…can you not come around here anymore? K, thanks, BYEEEEE”

Other observations:

  • Having a carriage was a big deal – but you had to have a carriage at the right time. A carriage too early was an invitation for public scrutiny. Check your carriage before you wreck your carriage.
  • Gypsies will rob you if you’re nice to them.
  • Doctor wars are intense. Pick your side and don’t back down!
  • Bath was the Las Vegas of 19c middle-class England.
  • Never trust your brand new friend if they tell you someone is in love with you – they are wrong and it will ruin your life.
  • If a lover sends you a surprise anonymous piano, he’s probably not good enough for you.
  • If a lover wants to keep your engagement secret, he’s definitely not good enough for you.
  • Always make sure you have enough apples.

QUESTION: In a contest between Mrs. Elton, Miss Bates, and Anne of Green Gables – who speaks for the longest without pause?

Austen comic source: http://once4511.tumblr.com/

It *Finally* Happened

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For the first time in my graduate career, my class reading and The List have aligned and I can cross another book off The List! *cheering* *the crowd goes wild*

Thank you, Professor Awesome, for including Anne of Green Gables on your syllabus this term. It was hilarious and has gotten me one step closer to my goal.

That’s 65 down, 80 to go!

Apparently, M. Paul supposedly dies.

Being a grad student also means that you read books alongside others who are (a) literarily-inclined (it’s my blog, I get to make up words here), (b) intensely smart, and (c) who are PhD’s.

This means that when you discuss Villette as a group and someone casually mentions M. Paul’s death, and nobody else seems confused by this statement, and you say “Wait, what? M. Paul dies? When did that happen?!” Everyone else looks at you with their smug, accusatory “you obviously didn’t finish the book” faces. Like this:

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And then you go in to objection/defence mode and start raving: “No, seriously, I thought he came back and they got married. IT SAYS HE COMES BACK AND THEY GET MARRIED! It was all arranged. Look, right here, on page 545, it says ‘Mr. Emmanuel’s return is fixed.’ SEE! IT WAS FIXED!”

But everyone is still looking at you like

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And they try to plead with you “but the storm, Catherine,” “He couldn’t have survived, Catherine,” “it was implied, Catherine.” And now YOU start looking at THEM like

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And you remind them that it says “Let them picture union and a happy succeeding life” at the end of the book, and that is exactly what you’re doing!

That, my friends, is how you become the dreamer, the optimist, the desperate hopeless romantic in a room full of intellectuals.

I’m going to sit in a corner with John Lennon and we’re going to talk about how Paul made it through the storm.

Plus, the book does not definitively  say that M. Paul dies. Ambiguity was Bronte’s thing. It was her calling card. It was what she did, people! This whole book is a giant ambiguous mess! That was literally the point! But, oh, the only thing that apparently was not ambiguous is the death of M. Paul? Nope. Nope. I’m nope-ing all over that.

IN FACT, it was conceded that there is a reading which supports M. Paul surviving the storm and coming home (read: my reading) AND THAT Bronte admitted to her publisher that there were two possible readings of her ending (HA!). HOWEVER the general consensus, and the author’s intention is that M. Paul dies.

Apparently the way Bronte originally wrote it, M. Paul does die. 100%. None of this “there was a big storm that probably killed him but I’m not going to say that it definitely happened, only hint to it and let my readers draw their own conclusions” bullshit. As the story goes, Bronte’s dad didn’t like this ending, he thought it was too sad, and so Bronte changed it to leave the door open for the possibility of M. Paul surviving the storm.

Image result for so you're saying there's a chance gif

I’m just saying, is all. Hasn’t anyone seen the ending of Dexter? Even if M. Paul doesn’t make it back to Lucy (which, let’s be honest, is not the worst thing, the man is kind of a jerk), it’s still entirely possible that he survived the storm and is off being a logger somewhere.

dexter

J’accuse Pikachu: https://cdn.meme.am/cache/instances/folder616/49397616.jpg
You tryna tell me kid: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BvBEVInCcAAYa1k.jpg
Dumb and Dumber: http://i.memecaptain.com/gend_images/cg_TpQ.jpg
original Dexter image (unedited): http://uproxx.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/dexter-finale-death.jpg?quality=90&w=650&h=356

Consolation Post: I’m still here, just busy being a grad student…

I haven’t posted in a while — as it turns out, being a grad student is a lot of work. Who knew?

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As a result, updating my blog hasn’t been my top priority (sorry!) even though I’ve been reading a lot of amazing books and thinking amazing things about them. I’ve also read some not-so-amazing things and thought not-so-amazing things about them. It’s a mixed bag, really.

I’ve just finished my last novel for this term. It was Villette by Charlotte Bronte and I did not like it. I found the novel’s ambiguity frustrating, and the plot lacked…well..many things.  Lucy ends up marrying  the man who scolded her for looking at Cleopatra and for wearing pink (the audacity!). At least I’m pretty sure they get married — like I said, this book is ambiguous AF. Why does she marry this guy? Because she loves him. Why does she love him? Because…umm…well he rented a school house for her, which she seemed to like. He also…umm…bought her books?

Okay, who am I kidding? The man filled her desk with books – nobody can say no to that.

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#truth

Speaking of books, I still have some course readings to get through, but otherwise I am DONE (reading novels) for this term (for my classes). Highlights have included Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, TellTale of Two Cities  and (surprisingly) Bleak House

A quick note on Tell – this is a book of poetry by Soraya Peerbaye about the murder of Reena Virk. Reena, a young teen in BC, was murdered by her classmates, a bunch of inhuman, vicious, violent people with hearts and heads filled with hate and prejudice. This book is absolutely chilling and sheds light on a devastating and dark mark in Canadian history. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how wonderful Canadians are, and it is true, Canadians rock and I love being one, but it is important to remember that ugliness exists here too, and we need to fight it at home just as much as we do abroad.

On that little reflective note, I’m off to continue my path towards super-smarted-ness. NEW WORD! COINED IT!

Only 3 presentations, 1 proposal, 3 papers, and a stack of exam marking to go!

I’m pulling in Tiny Potato to help motivate me to get through the rest of the term! 🙂

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Thanks, Tiny Potato. You always have my back.

image credit:
Pheobe: http://www.reactiongifs.com/r/2013/12/friends004.gif
Buying me books: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/a2/1b/e1/a21be1d68486d66723846739861478a4.jpg
Tiny Potato: http://www.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/156255-I-Am-A-Tiny-Potato-And-I-Believe-In-You-You-Can-Do-The-Thing.jpg

 

Feelings are for suckers.

31168Shirley was an interesting read. From the introduction to this book, you would expect the book to be about nothing — like the Seinfeld of Victorian England literature, but without the comedy. Although, I must admit, there are some moments of humour, when it seems Bronte can’t hold herself back and the narrative is so thick with sarcasm and satire that it’s impossible to ignore.

The introduction to this edition, written by Lucasta Miller, a Bronte scholar, informs the reader (i.e. me) that Bronte took a particularly ‘masculine’ approach to the narrative voice in this text…whatever that means. You see, apparently people had begun to suspect that Currer Bell (Bronte’s pseudonym) was a woman. Suddenly, in light of this new information, Jane Eyre went from being praised as original and intense to being “an affront to femininity,” “morally suspect,” and “politically subversive” (xii). So you know, normal Victorian gender biased bullshit. Of course, I’m not suggesting that Jane Eyre was not all of those things — I haven’t read it (yet), but if it’s anything like Shirley, it probably was guilty on all charges. In Bronte’s defence, the definition of femininity at the time was crap, morals were a bastardisation of Christian values loosely applied to men and used a tool to control women, and politics can always use a little subversion, can they not? So, there’s that.

The first half of this book is kind of boring…but on purpose, so Bronte gets a pass. Apparently she was trying to appear more masculine and throw off the sent of her femininity (good luck, doesn’t she know our smell is so strong it attracts bears?). According to Miller, ‘more masculine’ means writing frivolously about womanly things like feelings and romance. What is funny, though, is that this book does involve a romance. Two key romances, actually…so nice try, Bronte. But, the men are the ones who have all the feelings and need help controlling their emotions, so that’s pretty funny.

Anyways – I’m off to read Bleak House and try to wrap my head around Jameson’s theories on cognitive mapping.

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, Northanger Abbey, and My Reflections on Balance

I was speaking to a PhD student in my program yesterday and the topic of balance came up. I mentioned I was going home to finish a short story about a screw, to which she commented that it was good I was setting time aside from my studies for creative pursuits, taking some time for myself, so to speak (d’awww).

SIDE BAR: Seriously – the universe has been sending me a veritable army of angels of encouragement and support. I am stunned at how lucky I am to be surrounded by such wonderful people who are taking my imposter syndrome, or whatever it is, and helping me tell it to kindly STFU. This is my life right now, except that for me this applies to friends of all genders, and instead of ugly, I feel like I’m not smart enough to be in my MA program (this opinion is largely due to the fact that I’m literally surrounded by geniuses):

 

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Once again, Sarah Andersen perfectly expresses my sentiments. She’s inside my head, people.

 

Back to what I was saying. Short story. Right.

Sadly, I am not engaging in any such pursuits – sorry to disappoint, people, but you will see no short stories published by me any time soon. If you’re really itching for some short story action, check out Alice Munro or something. The short story I was referring to is The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which I’m reading for my class on fantasy and the social imaginary (YUP! That’s a class and I’m taking it BECAUSE THIS IS MY LIFE NOW AND ITS AWESOME…sorry was that out loud? #sorrynotsorry). I cleared up my miscommunication, but it did bring up the topic of balance.

It was an interesting question for me, because after a brief reflection I said that I don’t really have any balance in my life right now; essentially all of my time is dedicated to being a graduate student. But (ha! this is my blog, I can start a sentence with the word “but” if I want to!) But, I don’t need balance, I don’t need “me time” or “down time” or any such thing, because for me, this entire degree is my “me time.” Leaving behind a full-time, permanent position and throwing myself fully into a masters degree in English is pretty much one of the most selfish things I have ever done (if not the most selfish). This entire degree is a self-indulgence for me, and though it is challenging and demanding, it is a wondrous, exhilarating kind of exhaustion that I feel at the end of the day.

I know – “exhilarating kind of exhaustion”? Come on – don’t I know what “exhaustion” even means? But (ha! did it again!) But I’m being serious. Whenever I start to feel anything even remotely close to spent, or burn out, from late nights reading, or hours of research, or prepping for tutorials, all I have to do is remind myself that I’m feeling tired because I’ve been spending all of my time reading and writing and/or thinking about reading and writing and/or talking about reading and writing and then – BOOM – I’m exhilarated.

I was speaking to another friend recently and I said that whenever I start to complain, I realize that all of my complaints are actually things that make me really happy, so my complaints turn in to just proclamations of how awesome my life is right now. For example:

Concerned Friend: You look tired, what’s wrong?

Me: I stayed up until 2am reading last night.

Concerned Friend: oh, that sounds awful.

Me: wait, that’s not awful – THAT’S AWESOME!!!!

See what I mean? That book that kept me up until 2am? It was Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? and if you don’t follow me on Twitter (which you should, I’m awesome and witty), then take my advice now and GO. READ. THIS. BOOK. It was ah-mah-zing.

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That’s right. I’m bringing Casey Williams back (you may remember her from such posts as my one on The Count of Monte Cristo) because that’s how good this book was. It gave me all of the feels, you guys. I was in a glass case of emotion. I couldn’t even handle it. I was up at 2am reading a book bawling my eyes out and I couldn’t put it down.

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CYHtNC tells the story of the diasporic journey of three women who emigrate from India to Vancouver during the mid-20th century. The novel begins around the time of Partition (1947) in India, when Punjab was hacked and sawed apart by the Border Commission to be split between India and Pakistan. It ends with the Air India bombing (1985) which had its 30-year anniversary last year. I was familiar with a *little* bit of this part of India’s history from reading Midnight’s Children and I think I first heard of the Kamagata Maru incident (1914) on an episode of the podcast Stuff You Missed In History Class but otherwise I was exposed to a lot of new history. In the instances where I was familiar with the historical events, I got a new perspective, as well as a pointed (and fair) reminder that many of these events are as much part of Canadian history as they are Indian/Punjabi/Pakistani history. I cannot stress this enough, go out there and READ THIS BOOK!

Over the last couple of weeks I also read Northanger Abbey for the first time. Although Jane Austen appears a number of times on The List, I haven’t made my way to any of her books yet, so this was my introduction to Austenian literature. Full disclosure: one of the reasons I hadn’t read Austen yet was because I was HELLA avoiding it. I thought that shit was going to suckkkkkkkkk. As it turns out, Austen is hilarious! I see the same sarcastic, satirical tone in her writing that I loved in George Eliot. This is basically me the whole time I’m reading Jane Austen:

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N.B. This happened a lot during Mary Barton too. I have a feeling this gif is going to come up a lot in my MA…fair warning…seriously, you should see the number of times I scribbled “clever girl” in the margins.

I’m so glad I was introduced to Austen this way – Northanger Abbey is short, sweet, funny, sarcastic, and has me now looking forward to reading her novels which are on The List (which is basically all of them, except Northanger Abbey, because of course).

Note: I haven’t read this post over, but I have to go be a grad student now, so apologies for any typos, etc.

CORRECTION: I searched the Stuff You Missed in History Class website and did not find the Kamagata Maru on there, so maybe that’s not where I heard about it. I did hear about it, though…just not sure where…I feel like it was on the radio…

Image Sources
Sarah’s Scribbles: http://sarahcandersen.com/
My Heart Can’t Handle It gif: http://img.pandawhale.com/38353-the-feels-gif-Vvyf.gif
Jurassic Park gif: https://lovelace-media.imgix.net/uploads/36/3722fa90-f5bc-0132-f117-0ed54733f8f5.gif?

Succulents, coffee and reading – I have arrived.

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I promised I would be taking you all with me on this reading journey through grad school and now I’m making good on that. A little bit. I have a lot of reading to do, guys, you can’t be my first priority all the time (I love you, please don’t leave me).

To give you an idea, in my first week as a grad student, I have read Mary Barton, approximately 10% of Don Quixote, and an avalanche of other readings including short stories (such as The Demon Lover) and other scholarly works from apparently eminent authors. I say “apparently” because I seemed to be the only one in the room reading Northrop Frye for the first time. I’m going to take their word for his eminence, though, what with them having degrees and doctorates in English. Meanwhile I’m over here like “I really like books…”

If my calculations are correct, which they probably are not, I have nearly 7,000 pages worth of reading to do by the end of November. That’s fourteen books, two coursepacks (collections of readings), and a smattering of articles and excerpts. To date, I’ve read about 1,440 (20%) of those pages (remember, I’m in week 1, also I’m bad at math).

Tragically, with the exception of Tale of Two Cities (which I’ve already read) and Don Quixote (of which I only read an excerpt) none of those texts appear on The List.

We are reading Dickens, but not what’s on the List. We are reading Bronte, but not what’s on the List. We are reading Marques, but not what’s on the List. We are reading James Joyce, but not what’s on the List. We are referencing Middlemarch and A Fine Balance in some courses, but not reading them (damn!!). There are no Shakespeare courses being offered this year. Of course, the one course I decided not to register in to is reading Cloud Atlas.

I know, I know. You’re disappointed and sad for me. Don’t be. My life is awesome right now.

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what I look like on the inside right now

I’m still spending all of my time reading and talking about books, and when I’m not doing that I’m thinking about what I’ve just read and what I’m going to read next. And when I’m not doing that I’m going to be writing about books.

I have nothing to complain about – read Mary Barton, or The Inconvenient Indian, or anything about the Komagata Maru – those people have things to complain about. I, on the other hand, am living in my very own belle époque.

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Lilith, my new succulent

Spongebob image credit: http://images2.fanpop.com/image/photos/9500000/happy-sponge-future-wives-of-spongebob-9518085-1024-768.jpg